Meinong’s Version of the Description Theory


  • Arkadiusz Chrudzimski University of Szczecin, University of Salzburg



About 1904 Meinong formulated his most famous idea: there are no empty (non-referential) terms. Russell also did not accept non-referential singular terms, but in “On Denoting” he claimed that all singular terms that are apparently empty could be explained away as apparent singular terms. However, if we take a more careful look at both theories, the picture becomes more complex. It is well known that Russell’s concept of a genuine proper name is very technical; but this is also true of Meinong. Also, according to Meinong we can refer “directly” only to a very special category of ontologically simple objects. However, a very important difference is that, in the domain of Meinongian objects, a plurality of objects always corresponds to each description. Thus, if Meinong were right, there could be no definite descriptions. If we narrow the domain of reference to existent objects, we can secure the uniqueness of the reference object by specifying a collection of predicates that is contingently satisfied by only one (existing) object. But if we operate in the domain of all possible objects, we have to specify all properties that are had by the object in question. It turns out that such a “Leibnizian” specification amounts to the complete description of a possible world.